2017 thoughts, Dale Jr, Danica, Truex Jr and others
For the first time since 2006, I went to a Cup race. Actually attended a Truck race, Xfinity race and Cup race on the same weekend. Never did that before but had the time of my life. Going to a race and camping is an experience all itself. I loaded up my small car, packed with food, beer and of course my tickets which I purchased as far back as May. If I was to see a race, it would be this one. Daytona was too far for me and Homestead Miami was just a short 2hr drive from my place and could easily return home on Sunday night in time to go to bed and be up for work. I got to my campsite, set up my tent. Not too many tent campers but I felt like I must have been the youngest fan there. My neighbors were great. We talked racing and our drivers. I was pulling for Harvick, but on this weekend I felt it was proper to give Dale Earnhardt Jr a proper send off. Enjoyed the race, company of other fans, food, drink and just the experience. Nice way to end the season and time for me to give my thoughts on this 2017 season.
Say what you want about Dale Earnhardt Jr's career and lack of Championship, but he had did alot for the sport. I did also display my #3 flag as well and no doubt that guy did much more for the sport. Dale Jr came in at time when the sport was big and captivated the casual fan. He had a connection like his father but was nothing like his old man. Two time Busch Series Champion. Two time Daytona 500 winner. Dominated at Talladega. He was the fan favorite and most popular driver. Met him once and was very shy and quiet. But still took time for fans at a testing session to sign autographs. He always put on a good show. But sadly his career took a turn and the crashes and concussions were just too much for him. Racing is not always fair or good to people. Sometimes it can take lives, cause injuries and forever change a person's life. What might have been if Dale Jr had not gotten into so many bad accidents. Unfortunately it hurt his drive. He did not want to become another statistic. Lets not forget he saw his Dad die as well as other competitors. He was right to hang it up when he did and give someone else a chance. Now he can relax, enjoy family life and run a successful Xfinity Series team. He may have had the last name of a great driver, but he did it his way and did pretty well for himself if you ask me. Thanks for the memories Dale Earnhardt Jr. It was fun watching you.
As for Danica Patrick. Back in one of my previous blogs I discussed Danica Mania. Well unfortunately the hype and her NASCAR career came to an end. I was pretty harsh at Danica in the beginning. I wanted her to succeed to prove me wrong. I just think if she had more time in the Nationwide/Xfinity series she could have been great in the Cup series but she got rushed into a Cup ride too fast. Ultimately I think that is the reason for her short comings. She could put a car on the pole. But at the end of the day she was just a mid pack driver fighting to finish a race. To be fair, alot of the crashes she was involved in were not even her fault. However, she just could never quite pull off getting to the front. Things like this do not make sponsors happy. So it was no surprise that Go Daddy pulled the plug as well as other sponsors. It was great to see a woman try to race in the top level of NASCAR and I really hope this doesn't stop other women from trying to make it. Big nod and congrats to Martin Truex Jr. Proof that if you stick to it and keep trying, you can pull it off in NASCAR. I was in the stands when he pulled off winning the title and when he said he thought his career was over that really hit me. To see a young man like him struggle at DEI, move to Micheal Waltrip racing. Get screwed out of a ride there. Lands a ride with Furniture Row Racing, a small team in Denver, CO far removed from the Charlotte area. A team that many said was not capable of competing with the big teams, pulls off a great upset. Adversity can best describe the season. The fact that Truex Jr's girlfriend was fighting cancer. His crew chief lost a best friend. A fabricator for the team died of a heart attack. But despite all this, the team raced on and won the championship this year. I think this was one of the feel good stories of the year.
NASCAR has some great up and coming drivers coming up through the ranks too. Chase Elliott seems to be the one driver who has become very popular among fans. So much so, that when Denny Hamlin hit and spun him at Martinsville, Denny Hamlin just became the most hated man in NASCAR. But oh, Chase got his payback at Phoenix. Got to say, that kind of rivalry is gonna keep us all talking and watching. We all will be watching and hoping Chase Elliott finally gets a win in 2018. Speaking of first time cup winners, lets talk about Ryan Blaney. He will be at Penske next year and rightfully so. He did very well in the Wood Brothers 21 car and locked up his first win. I see more coming because he is a great front runner. Not to mention I like his nod to the old school and after winning, no burn out. Remember how I said I was looking for a new favorite? I like Harvick, but my new favorite now has to be Kyle Larson. The man is a hell of a wheel man. Anything with 4 wheels he will race. On the off days he runs sprint cars like Smoke. A throwback to alot of old school drivers who would get into any race car and do well. His car control and ability to work all over the track is impressive. He didn't make the Chase, but he had a heck of a season. If he could only do well on restarts and win stages like Truex Jr he will be tough to beat in 2018. Those are my thoughts. Cannot wait for Speedweeks. Till then, I will be watching old cup races on Youtube